Friday, April 29, 2011

How to get rid of resource guarding in your dog using clicker training method?

Gone are the days when you have to foolishly pretend to be the dog’s pack leader or alpha dog in order to be dominant. This dominance theory has been debunked and proven to be false especially when positive reinforcement training gave faster, effective results in a shorter duration.
The aversive methods or negative reinforcement training has only helped in damaging the healthy relationship between you and your dog. This training method has only resulted in creating a scared pet that would obey your commands in order to avoid a negative consequence or punishment. Do you want your dog to be scared of you and hate the very sight of you? I am sure you will not.

Many pet dog owners mistakenly take resource guarding as aggression and falsely think that the dog is trying to overpower them. Actually there is nothing like that and if you are one of those dog owners, then it’s high time that you correct yourself. The dog is only trying to protect a resource or an object from you, which the dog considers to be very precious. The aggression is only the result of that. In fewer cases this is instinctive.

Since dogs descended from wolves - several tens of thousands of years ago, some pet dogs still exhibit those wild instincts, because in the jungle they had to protect their prey from other wolves or animals and it was a matter of life and death for them. But with most dogs resource guarding is learned and is an outcome of fear, anxiety or lack of confidence.

Please watch this video !

Fortunately we can correct all of types of resource guarding through clicker training i.e. positive reinforcement training. Though there are different types of resource guarding demonstrated by the dogs, the most common ones are

  • Food bowl guarding
  • Guarding invaluable objects

How to Get Rid of Food Bowl Guarding: In the earlier post we saw that in order to prevent food bowl guarding you can feed your dog by hand. Apart from this you must also teach him that, if you approach his food bowl there’s nothing to growl about and he’s going to get more food if you do so. Your goal is to easily approach the dog while he’s eating and pick up the food bowl without your dog growling at you. Food bowl guarding is triggered when your dog thinks that you are going to take away the bowl from him when you are approaching and doesn’t understand that you are giving him the food.

In the first step you must gradually approach his food bowl before he starts growling. Click(using a clicker) and throw treats at him for being silent, but if he growls just ignore him and don’t reward him. It might take some time to get closer to him, but be patient and consistent. Repeat this process until you can get close enough to easily throw treats into his bowl.

It’s always recommended to click while you treat him; this clearly marks the desired behavior – for not growling at you – and reinforces it properly. When the dog is absolutely calm while you stand beside his food bowl, try touching his food bowl, then click/treat him immediately if he stays calm. This shows that the dog no longer guarding his food bowl. Now you can try picking up the food bowl. Click/treat him if he still stays calm. Repeat this process until he allows you to easily pick up the food bowl without any treats.

How to get around your dog’s habit of guarding invaluable objects: This is a common resource guarding behavior shown by pet dogs. But the good news is that you can easily get rid of this behavior by using clicker training i.e. positive reinforcement training.

If you see your dog guarding a silly piece of torn cloth or his own chewy toy and keeps protecting it from everyone, then you must try this method, it works. Show him a yummy treat, possibly up to his nose so that he can smell the treat and say ‘drop it’. The dog would definitely drop the cloth/toy in exchange for the yummy treat; click/treat him immediately by firmly saying ‘good dog’ or ‘good boy’ to reinforce the behavior. Repeat this activity until your dog starts dropping the object without getting a treat or asking him to drop it. It might take some time, but never give up and be at it. Finally you will see that he’s dropping the object even before you ask him to.

For training your dog or correcting any behavior problem using positive reinforcement training, you need to be extremely patient and consistent.


  1. Hi. Thanks for visiting my blog! I always enjoy meeting new friends through blogs. Your blog is full of information about positive reinforcement training, which I think is very nice :-)

  2. Hi Diego - what a great post on resource guarding!

    Hey - when are we going to see some pictures of YOU?! :-)

    Honey the Great Dane